As the defending Suffolk County champion, Jackson Hulse admits there was some added pressure to repeat first as a League VI champion, but he wasn’t going to let some nerves stand in his way.
With a 9-4 win over Kings Park’s Kiernan Derway, the Westhampton Beach wrestler took home some new hardware while stretching his undefeated streak.
“The kid was pretty tough — a lot more athletic than I thought,” Hulse said, smiling. “I might have underestimated him a little bit.”
The junior 170-pounder started the match off strong with two sets of back points, and increased his advantage to 6-0 at the 1:31 mark of the second period after choosing to start on bottom. With 43 seconds left in the match, Derway earned his own pair of back points, and after letting Hulse escape, picked up another pair with 25 seconds to go, but it was too little too late.
“I felt confident with myself and my abilities, even when the expectations messed with my head a little bit,” Hulse said. “I’m a little gassed, but I had to push through it — not just physically, but mentally.”
He pinned Miller Place’s Joe Mancero in 2:44 in the quarterfinals, and took down Mancero’s teammate Robert Cunningham in 40 seconds after going up 5-0 quick in the semis to reach the finals. Hulse was one of five Hurricanes to make it there, and one of 10 that earned a spot in the Suffolk County Division II tournament February 14 at Center Moriches High School. The junior is now 30-0 this season and 118-35 across his now five-year varsity career, reaching the 100-win milestone January 4 at the Cory Hubbard duals.
“He has all the talent in the world. It’s just getting him to harness all that talent,” co-head coach Andrew Petroulias said. “I think he wrestled well. For most of the match, he was dominant. He just has to stay focused. We keep pushing him to make the most of his career.”
It seems he and his teammates are well on their way. Grant Skala (106 pounds), Will Zafuto (120), Jason Montagna (126), and Gavin McIntyre (145) all earned second-place finishes.
McIntyre came into the match off a high from his 8-4 semifinal win over Miller Place’s Travis Grebe. After trading points with his opponent to go down 4-3 to start the third period, McIntyre escaped to tie things up with a little over a minute left, and racked up two pairs of back points in the final four seconds to win it. The junior said he knew Islip’s Francis Whitehouse was going to throw in legs on top in his finals match, and tried to get his elbows in to get a quick standup. It worked well with 1:36 to go in the third period down 2-0, and while the escape point was all he could collect before time expired, McIntyre said he’s looking forward to having another shot at taking down his opponent this Friday.
“It was a close match with a really tough kid,” McIntyre said. “It was hard to get takedowns on him, get my shots. I almost had one at the end of the first period. With a one-point match, it could go either way on any given day.”
Montagna also came close to topping his Kings Park competitor. Down 5-1 after Thomas DiResta gave him the point to continue the period in neutral, he racked up three more on a near pin, and two back points to go up 6-5 to end the first.
“Jay’s always going to give you 110 percent,” Petroulias said. “He’s a kid who’s never out of it.”
But DiResta was quick on his feet in the second, sandwiching Montagna’s back points with two pairs of his own to enter the third period out front 9-8. Montagna quickly escaped to tie the match, but DiResta collected another pair of back points at the end of the period to seal the deal. With pins in the tournament against Miller Place’s Derek Knee (1:31) and Justin Klein (3:20), Montagna is up to 91 across his 130-win career — one pin away from tying recent graduate Liam McIntyre’s record of 92 across his 171 wins.
“I was excited to show my capabilities in the finals,” the senior said. “I feel I’ve been kind of overlooked for most of my career, and this was my chance. We’ll see how it goes Friday. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Joe D’Agostino (99), Jack Santora (106), James O’Neill (152), Aidan McKeon (160), and Eric Schaumloffel (220) all earned fourth-place finishes. Co-head coach Connor Miller said he’s proud to see far his guys have come since shaking off the rust at the beginning of the season.
“We don’t have year-round wrestlers up and down the lineup, so we’re really happy to see this kind of growth over the season,” Miller said. “I think the kids came out today and really competed, battled hard in those first two rounds especially. We came up with some upsets, and it’s especially great for some kids who weren’t sure at the beginning of the season that this is where they’d be.”